Rites of the Caddo

Exorcism By Fumigation 1

This rite 2 is performed, as we shall note, in Peyote ceremonial–when a participant returns to the ceremonial tipi after having had to leave it during the night, and, by all the participants at the close of the ceremony.

Any one who would enter the room where a patient is being cured has first to be smoked.

The property of the dead is smoked, at the grave, before it is given away, and the mourners themselves are smoked. Feathers plucked from a dead eagle have also to be smoked before they are given away. Eagle killers are smoked.

In the Peyote fumigatory rite eagle feathers are used to waft the smoke, ordinarily a person merely stoops over the smoke, no covering being used.

Exorcism By Bath

An eagle killer is bathed with warm water and tobacco. Mourners bathe in a stream.
River bath or the sweat bath, which is in general use in the Southeast, is preliminary to participation in Peyote ceremonial.


He prayed or gave thanks (t’umbakauutsihadina) is the term used for the initial prayer of the Peyote leader; also for the ceremony to ask forgiveness 3 from your supernatural helper (p. 58), where it is described as “to pray or make offerings.”


The hunt leader would build a fire and in the middle of it put an offering of buffalo tongue. This offering was to the fire itself, which was kept up for the duration of the hunt camp. Today when a beef is killed a piece is cast on the fire. Some of the first of the crop-potatoes, pumpkin, corn-is cast on the fire. When White Moon has been away, his grandmother will keep against his return the first meal of something new, 4 putting a bit of it on the fire. 5

At the meal eaten at the grave 6 to dispatch the dead and at memorial meals food is offered on the grave. The property of the deceased is hung on a pole, one of the regular early ways of making offerings.’ 7 There are always crumbs for ghosts 8 (see p. 60).


Fasting from salt is observed in Peyote ceremony. Compare p. 33 for the idea that salt in the body precludes being affected by magical or supernatural influence-possibly a clue to the widespread taboo on salt in connection with ceremonial.

Smoking And Gift Of Tobacco

The Peyote ceremony opens with ceremonial smoking, the leader holding the cigarette over Father Peyote, and puffing the smoke upward. Puffing in the directions on any occasion was unfamiliar to my informants, although into the eighteenth century Caddo did smoke in the directions. 9
A gift of tobacco to a doctor who accepts it is binding.

Orientation: The Road

The circuit is sunwise, beginning in the east, as seen in ritual at the grave, in Peyote ceremonial and in the kak’it’imbin dance. The Ghost dance circuit is anti-sunwise and so is that of a pleasure “stomp dance.” As among Pawnee, 10 the head of the ceremonial group sits at the west side, and north and south lines are distinguishable. 11

The “road,” presumably for the Spirits, runs east and west. The Sky father to whom the dead go lives in the west.

Favored Numeral

It is six; 12 as White Moon puts it, “they always do it six times. 13 Curing ceremonial lasts six days. The mourning period is six days. There are six tallies in the hand-game. The cardinal directions are accounted six. In describing how women used to pound corn Ingkanish said there would be as many as six women working together at the mortar; in previous accounts no more than four are described. 14

Breath Rite

The rite of expiration is observed in cures. The curer blows into the palm of the patient’s hand or on his forehead–tsit’ano’a, I blew on him. 15

Mooney relates that when he was visited by Moon-head, the Ghost dance leader, Moon-head began the interview by blowing upon him, afterwards explaining that this was to blow evil things away before beginning to talk on religion. 16 At the same time Moon-head passed his hands in front of Dr. Mooney’s face.

Hand Pass

One’s palms are held towards or passed over something and then down (aahatdaut’a, good do). This rite of communicating an influence, as we might say, is very common. It occurs thrice in Peyote ceremonial, when the hands are raised to the rising sun, when the hands are passed over the peyote in the “road” and then down oneself and after the peyote is eaten and a forcible spit-like expiration is made on one’s hands which are then passed down oneself. The rite occurs also in the Ghost dance. On the occasion of Moon-head’s visit to Dr. Mooney, the Ghost dance leader, relates Dr. Mooney, “laying one hand on my head, and grasping my own hand with the other prayed silently for some time with bowed head, and then lifting his hand from my head, he passed it over my face, down my shoulder and arm to the hand, which he grasped and pressed slightly, and then released the fingers with a graceful upward sweep.” 17 This rite of laying or passing hands was performed by twenty or more visitors the next day in connection with all the inmates of the household of which Dr. Mooney was a part. According to White Moon, in intertribal greeting, after shaking hands with the foreigner, you pass your palms over him and then over yourself. 18

The rite of hand pass is observed over a corpse or at the grave. 19


Mr. Wing referred to the use of a mask in one of the tales he told Dorsey. 20 Moon appears never to have even heard of the use of masks.


As already noted, songs may be heard first in dreams. One who has such a dream is expected to remain at home for a while, away from people. Mr. Wing told Dorsey that animals to give power might appear in dreams 21 and the dreamer would remain at home, in silence, refusing to talk, thinking on his experience. 22Citations:

  1. Cp. Hatcher, XXX, 214; Pawnee, Maurie, 625-626, 637; Dorsey 1: 79; Dorsey 3: 30.[]
  2. Hits’iushnuha, I was smoking myself.[]
  3. Hakuts’iats’a, I am sorry.[]
  4. Formerly, at least at a ceremonial meal, “something of everything” was offered (Hatcher, XXX, 212); now it is only something of anything new.[]
  5. Cp. Harrington, 267; Hatcher, XXX, 212-213; Creeks, Swanton 1: 517, and general in the Southeast (Swanton 2: 708).[]
  6. One Shawnee division set the food for the final burial feast on the grave first, then brought it back and served it to the guests, at the dwelling house (Voegelin).[]
  7. Hatcher, XXX, 214.[]
  8. Food, also tobacco, was offered to the scalps at the victory celebration (Joutel, 380). Inferably the tobacco was to bind the Spirits (see below).[]
  9. Hatcher, XXXI, 166, 172. Creeks used color-directions associated with water (Swanton 1: 623-624).[]
  10. Murie, 628.[]
  11. Murie, 628, 636, 642.[]
  12. Cp. Pawnee, Murie, 629 n. 1.[]
  13. See pp. 33 37, 40, 41, 61, 67, 68, and cp. Dorsey 2: passim.[]
  14. Joutel, 367.[]
  15. Cp. Dorsey 2: 22; Kiowa, Parsons, 137; widespread.[]
  16. The Ghost Dance Religion, 905.[]
  17. Ibid.[]
  18. This is a characteristically Southeastern greeting (Swanton 2: 702).[]
  19. Possibly it was this rite which was performed at the installation of chiefs by the Choctaw in 1807 (Sibley, 26). It occurs among Pawnee (Murie, 565, 566, 627; Grinnell, 115; Dorsey 3: 26) and Kiowa (Parsons, 135).[]
  20. Dorsey 2: 58. Animal dance masks were reported among Choctaw- (Swanton 3: 221222) and among Creeks who also used masks of old men and of foreigners (Swanton 1: 551, 556), Southwest style, also Mexican, early and late.[]
  21. Cp. Choctaw, Swanton 3: 214.[]
  22. Traditions of the Caddo, 20.[]


Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921.

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